‘The Judiciary Is No Longer Sacred,’ Mahua Moitra Slams Handling of CJI Sexual Harassment Case in Explosive Speech
Trinamool Congress (TMC) Lok Sabha MP Mahua Moitra slammed the judiciary in an explosive speech Monday, saying that it had stopped being a “sacred cow” the day “when sitting chief justice of this country was accused of sexual harassment, presided over his own trial, cleared himself, and then proceeded to accept a nomination to the Upper House of Parliament within three months of his retirement replete with Z plus security.” She decried the handling of the sexual harassment case against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, which was then met with uproar in the Parliament during the Motion of Thanks to the president’s address.
Although Moitra did not directly name CJI Gogoi, she was referencing an incident when he was accused of sexual harassment in April 2019 by a junior court assistant at the Supreme Court. The former employee at Gogoi’s office had sent a complaint-letter attached to 22 Judges of the Supreme Court, narrating how Gogoi had allegedly sexually harassed her. She had also mentioned how her resistance to his advances had allegedly been followed by professional targeting and subsequent harassment for her and her family.
The accusation, at the time, had been met with the senior advocates labeling it an “attack.” The Supreme Court of India had taken suo moto cognizance of the allegations but had then followed it up with the creation of a special bench headed by the accused CJI himself. The former CJI had stated how he was targeted, and how the allegations were an apparent “conspiracy to malign” his image. While he had said he did not “deem it appropriate” to reply to the allegations, he had proceeded to clear his own name, in clear violation of judicial standards.
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In Parliament, Moitra’s comments on the CJI case were met with indignation and outcry from other MPs, who attempted to interrupt her speech during her allotted time on the floor. But Moitra had already invoked parliamentary privilege — the set of rights and immunities enjoyed by the Members of Parliaments — and said that they’d guard her against any charges of sedition and contempt against any “truths” she says in the house.
According to sources, however, the Centre is now planning to initiate a breach of privilege motion against Moitra for her remarks on ex-CJI Gogoi, holding the view that a person in high authority should not be discussed in Parliament without prior notice and approval of the speaker. The TMC MP, however, said that she would deem it a privilege if such a motion is moved against her “for speaking the truth during India’s darkest hour.”
In her speech, Moitra also criticized the Narendra Modi government for turning “misinformation and propaganda into a cottage industry” and remarked that the republic was not created by cowards who “hid behind authority, hate, bigotry, untruth, and dared to call it courage.” She also said that the current government had made “hate, pettiness and bigotry” a part of its narrative in a “truly fascist fashion … Far too many of our fellow citizens today languish in jail or bear the burden of judicial and police harassment simply for asking questions of this government or choosing to voice an opinion on the state of affairs in our country,” she said. “The government has turned the world’s greatest democracy into a police state.”